This summer, harvest your basil and basil flowers to make basil vinegar! Use this herbal infused vinegar in a homemade vinaigrette or with roasted vegetables.
Are you growing basil in your garden?
If you are, it's time to start thinking about ways to use your basil now and to preserve it through winter.
But guys, I've got SO MUCH basil growing right now! I've been looking for more preservation ideas.
Recently, I discovered a recipe for basil flower vinegar in Linda Ly's The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook, and I thought it was just brilliant.
I love recipes that use unexpected parts of the plants.
This recipe is inspired by Linda's, but is actually an adaptation of my chive blossom vinegar.
This basil vinegar can be made with either basil leaves or flowers (or both!), and will help you hold onto the taste of basil all year long.
What Are Basil Flowers?
Basil flowers (or blossoms) are the flowers that grow at the top of the basil plant!
In general, gardeners will pinch off these flowers as they appear, because the flowers signal that your plant is going to seed.
When the basil plant begins to flower, the stems become woodier, and the leaves can become slightly more bitter. To slow down this process, pinch off the flowers.
But you should know that the basil flowers are edible and they taste like basil!
You can pinch them off and add them as fresh basil or use them to decorate a salad, similar to how I used the flowers in this nasturtium salad.
Or, as you may have guessed, you can collect the basil flowers and use them to make basil infused vinegar.
What If I Don't Have Basil Flowers?
You can also make this basil vinegar with basil leaves.
Or, if you have a few flowers, but not enough to do much with, simply use both the flowers and the leaves!
What Type of Basil Should I Use?
Any kind you have on hand!
Some types of basil will add spicier notes to the vinegar (like Thai basil), and others will make a more delicately flavored vinegar (like sweet basil).
I like to mix and match with whatever basil I have on hand.
What Type of Vinegar Should I Use?
If you want to use homemade fruit vinegar or rice vinegar, make sure to infuse your vinegar in the fridge.
Homemade vinegar will (in general) have an unknown acidity level, and rice vinegar has an acidity level below 5%. If you’re infusing either with “wet” ingredients like fresh herbs or flowers (as opposed to dehydrated or fully dry flowers), keep it cool to avoid bacteria growth.
Do not use distilled white vinegar. It's too astringent and will ruin the flavor of the basil.
How to Make Basil Vinegar
Start by harvesting basil or basil flowers. Or both.
Clean a glass jar, and add the basil. Muddle the basil to help release the oils.
Next, you have two options.
You can do a warm infusion by heating the vinegar and pouring it over the basil. Let the basil infuse for at least three days, and when you like the flavor, strain out the basil.
Alternatively, you can do a cold infusion by pouring room temperature vinegar over the basil. This method will take longer (about three weeks), but the final flavor will be slightly more delicate.
Whichever method you choose, top the basil leaves with citrus peel. The peel will help hold the basil below the surface of the liquid, and will give the vinegar a little extra flavor.
Finally, seal the jar and wait.
Check on the vinegar daily to make sure that the basil is still below the surface. If some basil popped up above the citrus peel, simply push it back into the vinegar.
When you like the flavor of the vinegar, strain out the basil and store the vinegar in the fridge.
How to Use Basil Vinegar
Use this vinegar in any homemade vinaigrette! It'll add a delicious herb flavor to your salad dressings.
- ½ cup basil leaves or basil flowers Or use a mixture of both
- 1 cup white wine vinegar OR champagne vinegar
- peel from about half an orange or lemon (preferably organic)
- If using basil flowers: Clean the flowers by dipping them into a bowl of water, and set aside to dry.If using basil leaves: Rinse the basil and set aside to dry.Optional: Heat the vinegar until it's warm. Do not bring it to a boil.Tip: Heating the vinegar will help the blossoms infuse more quickly, but will produce a slightly less delicate flavor than room temperature vinegar.
- Add the basil or basil flowers to a clean glass jar, and muddle them with a cocktail muddler or the back of a wooden spoon.Pour the vinegar over the flowers into the jar until the jar is almost full. (The amount of vinegar listed is approximate; you may need slightly more or less.)Place the citrus peel on top of the flowers to help keep them submerged.
- Seal the jar, and place it in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Check on the vinegar daily to make sure the basil is still submerged.Allow the basil to infuse for anywhere from 3 days (if you used warm vinegar), or 3-5 weeks (for room temperature vinegar), until you like the flavor. Note that even warm vinegar infusions can be infused for 3-5 weeks. It all depends on your flavor preferences.Finally, strain out and discard (or compost) the basil and citrus peel. Store the vinegar in a sealed jar in the fridge, and use within 6-8 months.
Use the measurements as a guide, not a rule. In general, pack the basil into a jar and fill the jar with vinegar. If you use more basil your infusion will be stronger, and less basil will give you a milder infusion.
Do not double or triple the lemon peel. While it will add some flavor, its main job is to hold the flowers under the liquid. Vinegar Substitutions:
I recommend using white wine or champagne vinegar.
If all you have on hand is apple cider vinegar, it will work, but the flavor of the basil will be less distinctive (because ACV has a strong flavor).
If you use rice vinegar, you should infuse the vinegar in the fridge and expect the infusion to take slightly longer. Rice vinegar's lower acidity level makes it unsafe to infuse at room temperature.
Avoid using white distilled vinegar, because it's too astringent-tasting.